(Part Of This Series)
When I preach, I preach an already settled text of scripture. I don't determine what is scripture or wait for God to reveal to me what His Words are. That is already determined. I preach what is already there. I don't wait for a voice in the head, telling me what to do. I don't look to see if there is a word among textual variants that fits better what I want the passage to say. I don't canonize a new word by myself on the spot. I'm not in the business of telling people what scripture is. I preach an already settled scripture.
One person can't willy-nilly say what is God's Word. A pope can't do that when he speaks ex cathedra. A preacher cannot when he says God gave him a particular message. A textual critic can't do that when he pronounces what is the Word of God. All three of these, however, have the same in common, that the Word of God is not settled. They contribute to an understanding of the canonicity of scripture that is an ongoing, incomplete process. The door should be closed on canonicity. Continued additions declare lack of completion despite how scripture reads about its own settled state.
Men are not qualified or authorized to say what God counts as His communication. Scripture draws a sharp distinction between "words which man's wisdom teacheth" and those "which the Spirit teacheth" (1 Cor 2:13). Human wisdom cannot judge the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:20-25). The mind of natural man fails at receiving the words of God's Spirit: "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God . . . . neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14). Only God can identify His own word, so God's word must attest to itself and must witness to its own divine character and origin. "And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for . . . they are they which testify of me." (John 5:38-39).
God canonized His inspired Words with the recognition of their inspiration by His people (Dt 31:24-26; Josh 24:25; 1 Sam 10:25; Dan 9:2; 1 Cor 14:37; Col 4:16; 1 Th 2:13, 5:27; 2 Th 3:14; 2 Pet 3:15-16; Rev 1:4). The consolidation of every writing into an amalgamated whole took time due to the epochal constraint on communication and circulation.
When Jesus or the apostles appealed to "the Scriptures," the Old Testament, not even their opponents disputed that. Neither was "one jot or one tittle" (Mt 5:18) of "the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms" (Lk 24:44) challenged or repudiated by the Lord Jesus Christ. He testified to the canon by declaring "the Scripture cannot be broken" (Jn 10:35), referring to the very letter of the Old Testament. Concerning this, the Apostle Paul wrote: "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning" (Rom 15:4). Scripture itself defines its own written Words as "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3) from the law of Moses to the apostolic writings of the New Testament. We may not add or subtract any of its Words (Dt 4:2; Rev 22:18-19).
Scripture by nature is supernatural. It is God's Word. If it isn't, this discussion doesn't matter anyway. When you read scripture, you find therein what characterizes supernatural revelation or speech. It is prophetic and apostolic, authenticated by signs. When God speaks directly out loud and in a public way, as recorded in scripture, it has a supernatural quality, sounding like thunder, even mistaken for thunder. It surely isn't a voice in the head, which doesn't bring the attestation required to be considered God speaking.
With the truth of canonicity, which is a settled, completed, finished, and supernatural quality to the canon, one should not expect something new in the way of scripture by whatever means. New things are extra-canonical fallacies. They are not the sincere milk, the pure mother's milk (1 Pet 2:2) and should not be considered a basis of faith. They should be rejected by believers.
New or different words beyond what was written and settled as scripture are not helpful in any way, including apologetically. Here I bring in the apologist James White, who regularly talks as if a necessity for apologetic work with the big boys, the arena in which he competes (not meant egotistically, of course), requires an ongoing naturalistic determination of the text. Scripture teaches the opposite of what White says. He treats those who differ with such disdain in his voice, language, and appearance, that it seems like he believes that should stand as authority for his unscriptural view.
Last Thursday on his Dividing Line program White mocked the concept of providential preservation of scripture (from about 25 to 41 minutes), characterizing it as men believing that God "reinspired" the Greek text or that God actually "took over" Erasmus, Beza, and Stephanus (comparing it to Joseph Smith's inspired translation and Mormonism). He called the textus receptus, quote, "an accident of history." He criticizes the text received by the churches as having "no consistent textual critical methodology." He scorned providential preservation. He referenced a book by Jans Krans, who has himself written elsewhere, "I do not have a 'theory' of providential preservation of any text in human history." To White and Krans and those like them, against the biblical doctrine of preservation and canonicity, the text of scripture is an unsettled matter, so the Bible is still in flux. Someone "hears" a particular word or statement as of God through an entirely naturalistic process.
During the first portion of White's program last Thursday, he talked about the intervention of God in health matters, speaking of one example of terminal cancer in an apologetic colleague of his. God intervenes in health matters to White, but White takes a deistic approach to God's providence related to His own Word, choosing to characterize that as some type of crazy mysticism. God intervenes in the affairs and especially in the fulfillment of His promises. We are required to view history according to what God said He would do. Doing so keeps the Word of God within its divine realm, where God intends it.
Apologetics according to scripture is a supernatural endeavor. The problem of sinners isn't a natural one but a supernatural one, not an intellectual one but a volitional one. Men are in rebellion against God and if they do not believe Moses and the prophets, they won't believe (Lk 16:31). The Bible is true and it promises its own preservation. The proof is the promise itself. If someone will not believe that promise, then scripture will never be settled for a person.
On the other hand, there are those who believe and say that the English wording of the King James is the final authority over its underlying text. In a decision on what God said, they rely on the meaning of an English word over the actual word inspired by God. The only possibility is that God was still speaking and moved on the translators identical to what He did in the first century with the New Testament authors.
For the Bible to be the only infallible source of revelation from God, it must be settled and certain, therefore, forbidding any deletions or additions. God’s word is God’s word. The words of scripture are either God’s words or they are not. No authority should rest alongside the Bible that is equal to the Scripture in the Christian life, including textual criticism.